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ABC News Breakfast -

View in ParlView



3 MAY 2011

Subjects: Death of Osama bin Laden; Newspoll

HOST: And we're joined now by the Prime Minister in Canberra. Ms Gillard, thank you for your time
and good morning.

PM: Good morning.

HOST: Were you as shocked as everybody else when you learned the news that the world's most wanted
fugitive was hiding in a relatively wealthy Pakistani city, just metres from that country's key
military academy?

PM: Well, like the rest of the world I was surprised. Obviously the rumours had tended to be that
he was hiding out in mountain locations, not in a populated area very close to Pakistan's capital.
But my overwhelming sense when I heard the news yesterday was one of relief, that someone who had
caused so much evil, so much harm, had been brought to justice.

HOST: How long do you believe Osama bin Laden had been in Pakistan?

PM: Look, I haven't got any information that can enable me to answer that question. I note that
President Obama, of course, thanked Pakistan for assistance that helped lead the Americans to Osama
bin Laden and the compound in which he was ultimately found and killed.

HOST: And just on that point, what information does the Australian Government have about the role
of Pakistani security forces in the actual operation?

PM: Look, I don't speculate on any intelligence matters, but what I can of course refer to is
President Obama's thanks for assistance in helping to lead the Americans to where Osama bin Laden

HOST: You might have just heard our reports on US counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan telling
reporters in Washington this morning that is was inconceivable from the Administration's point of
view that Osama bin Laden did not have a support structure in Pakistan. Do you share that view?

PM: Well, clearly, to be able to be there he must have had some support mechanisms, absolutely, but
American officials, President Obama, Secretary Clinton have all been confirming that they want to
continue close counter-terrorism operation with Pakistan, as do we. We have a Memorandum of
Understanding with Pakistan. We need to work with them in the fight on terrorism and we need to
remember that Pakistan has suffered grievously from the activities of terrorist organisations like
al Qaeda. Many, many of the people of Pakistan have lost their lives in terrorist attacks.

HOST: And undoubtedly they have, but given you share John Brennan's concern, do you trust the
Pakistani Government and do you trust its genuineness in the battle against terrorism?

PM: Well, what I think is the best approach from the Australian Government, and it is the same
approach being taken by the Government of the United States, is we've got to continue to work with
Pakistan on our counter-terrorism efforts. It's an important place for us to pursue the war on
terror and we will continue to do that.

HOST: How, Prime Minister, in your view, does the killing of Osama bin Laden change the dynamic in
the war in Afghanistan?

PM: Well, of course this has hurt al Qaeda. Its leader being executed had clearly hurt al Qaeda,
but it has not killed al Qaeda. This is a resilient terrorist network. What this means is we've got
to stay the course in Afghanistan. We are there to prevent Afghanistan once again becoming a safe
haven for terrorists. We've got to see that mission through.

Now, I think a message we should take from the eventual death of Osama bin Laden is that
persistence does pay. It can take a lot of time to successfully pursue a mission. It took a lot of
time to pursue the mission to locate Osama bin Laden. We know that we are pursuing our mission in
Afghanistan. We are making progress. We are looking towards 2014, where the Afghan Government has
said it wants to take security leadership of the country, but we need to see that mission through.

It would be a very grave error to think that because Osama bin Laden is dead that somehow the
terrorism problem or terrorism network that al Qaeda represents is finished as well.

HOST: In fact, a lot of security analysts are saying that the most potent al Qaeda leader is still
very much at large and that, of course, is the deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Do you believe that this
- the fact that he is very much seen as the chief executive of al Qaeda, whereas Osama bin Laden
was essentially the inciter-in-chief? Do you believe that he poses a much greater threat to
Westerners and Coalition troops in Afghanistan?

PM: I think al Qaeda continues to pose a threat and this tends to be a multi-headed beast, if you
like. There's more than one identity involved in al Qaeda.

Now, we don't want to underestimate the fact that the death of Osama bin Laden is a significant
blow to al Qaeda, but it is not the death knell of al Qaeda. We've got more work to do and we do
have to pursue our mission in Afghanistan as part of that work against terrorism and terrorism
being able to incubate itself in safe havens.

Afghanistan has been a safe haven for terrorism in the past. We are working to ensure it is not a
safe haven for terrorism in the future.

HOST: Prime Minister, Indonesia's anti-terrorism chief is this morning warning of possibly instant
reprisals against Westerners in Indonesia. What precautions it the Australian Government taking
against this?

PM: There are, of course, the possibility of revenge attacks, and that's been the subject of
discussion, I know, on your show and on many other media outlets today. What I can say to
Australians about that is we are urging Australians overseas to not get involved in any mass
demonstrations which may emerge. It may be that in some countries in world there are demonstration
that are decrying the death of Osama bin Laden. We're saying to Australians abroad do not get swept
up or involved in any of those demonstrations and just show commonsense and vigilance about your
personal security.

To Australians at home, to all of us here in Australia, we have not increased our terrorism warning
system. We are still on the same level of warning as we have been and we continue, of course,
through our government agencies, to be vigilant about the prospects of any terrorist attack, but we
have not upgraded warnings at home.

HOST: Just given the concerns you've expressed about Australian overseas, would you consider
following the American's lead and issuing a formal travel warning in the light of the events in

PM: We have already put a new set of words - warning words - on the Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade website. That is where people go for travel advisories, so I'd urge anybody travelling to
get on that website. It will of course direct them to this global warning that I've just repeated
for you, and it always gives country-specific information.

There is the registration system, too, and we always urge Australians who are travelling overseas
to register through the Departmental website, which means we have the ability to know where they
are and to get information to them if we need to. Now, that's proved to be useful in a whole series
of circumstances - for example, most recently in Japan, when we needed to locate people following
the earthquake and tsunami, so it's always prudent to register if you're going to travel.

HOST: And just finally before you go, Prime Minister, you mentioned you've urged Australians not to
take part in those mass demonstrations, a lot of which are taking place in America. Are you a bit
unsettled by the show of triumphalism being shown by certainly some Americans, but also some of
their political leaders in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death and the potential to further incite
those reprisals we're all fearing?

PM: I believe President Obama has struck exactly the right tone on this and I understand that for
so many people, people who have lost so much because of the violence that Osama bin Laden led and
the violence he inspired, that this is an emotional time. So, I can understand there being
outpourings of emotion by people around the world. Here in Australia, of course, there are many
Australian families who continue to grieve the loss of loved ones, whether it's from 9/11, or Bali,
either of the Bali bombings, indeed other terrorist events around the world. So, this is clearly an
emotional time for many people.

HOST: And just quickly, one quick domestic question, talking about being unsettled, are you in any
way anxious about Tony Abbott's jump in his personal approval rating in the latest Newspoll this

PM: Well, of course, I'm going to disappoint you here and say I don't run commentary on the polls.
I've got a lot of hard work to do as Prime Minister, we've got a lot of hard work to do as a
Government, and we'll get on and do it.

HOST: Julia Gillard, thank you very much for your time this morning.

PM: Thank you.